(If you’re an ADF Dedicant and you’re following the Wheel of the Year book too, you’ll notice that I’m doing these virtues all out of order. I’m having trouble with them, each in their own way, so I’ve decided to write them whenever they strike me as interesting. That’s the plan, anyway…!)
Here’s the main problem I’m having with the ADF Virtues at the moment. I want to understand the sources of the values by which I live my life. I want to question my values, and reach a place where I value things that I consider good and noble and true. I want to ‘live right’ – but who says what right or wrong is? When I was a Christian, the answer to that was usually “God” (via “the Bible”). As a Pagan, I have self-determination in my values – I live by the values that I think are important. My personal values are based on the things that I value in the world, such as my connection to all life, and the concept that everything around me is sacred. They are also based on values that my ancestors held – as long as those have proven to be relevant to my life today. So for example, my ancestors would not have tolerated homosexuality – but my value on that subject is the opposite. On the other hand, the myths and modern practice in Ireland combine to demonstrate that my ancestors valued hospitality. That has proven to be relevant to my faith, my gods and my life today, and so it’s a value that I uphold.
So then I come across some of the ADF Virtues. And some are values that I can really get behind, like Integrity. And then there’s… Perseverance.
Now, I know that perseverance is a good thing, in general. But as an ADF Virtue, it really doesn’t seem to fit, for me. Michael J Dangler lists quotes from traditional sources, here, for each of the Virtues – and when he gets to Perseverance, what does he quote? The Havamal? Brythonic triads? Breton law? Nope… Shakespeare. (That well-known pagan leader and philosopher.) OK, so he’s mainly using more modern quotations and ideas to illustrate them, and Shakespeare is a bit of an influential and inspirational bloke, you have to admit. But I can’t find examples in the myths that show that perseverance was valued as highly as hospitality. And I want to.
So I’m trying to understand why this virtue, rather than many other potential ones that haven’t made the list, has been singled out. I can usually see the reason, when it comes to the other virtues, why they’ve been chosen as one of ADF’s Final Nine. Not with this one.
Talking to my ADF friends, absolutely wonderful though they are, didn’t help. Three conversations today have gone like this:
Me: I hate Perseverence. Why is it a virtue?
Fellow ADFer: Perseverance is important!
Me: Lots of things are important. Why this one particularly?
Fellow ADFer: Cú Chulainn persevered!
Me: He also cheated on his wife, rejected a goddess, and knew how to do a salmon leap (and showed excellent traits that are not on the list of ADF’s Nine Virtues, like love, kinship and responsibility). Why perseverance, specifically?
Fellow ADFer: Warriors need to persevere!
Me: They also need skill, loyalty and good boots. WHY PERSEVERANCE?
Needless to say, I’ve been annoying my ADF-member friends today (and should probably apologise for my grumpiness!) Talking about the virtue did help, though. One person brought up the concept of Rta – the Vedic Sanskrit word that means ‘cosmic order of the universe’ or even ‘truth’. As much as I dislike the word, the concept is a strong one for me, and thinking of Perseverance as something that contributes to the ‘sacred creative cycle of chaos and cosmos’ does help a bit – if I can get this value to fit there. Another person suggested I should substitute a virtue/value that means more to me, like Steadfastness or Loyalty. Those two concepts do make a bit more sense to me, as sacred virtues. But I still don’t… quite… get it.
Part of my reluctance here may be about my relationship with perseverance, generally. It’s hard to see something as a sacred virtue when you’re really, really crap at it. I’m good at starting, but not at finishing. I like having the big ideas, the flashes of inspiration. Not so much the follow-through. I see how things could be – I don’t always want to put in the work to get them there. As a result, I take on a lot of responsibilities and activities, but I don’t always see them through. Also, I have a horrendously short attention span. (Squirrel!)
So for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be trying to focus on perseverance. Working hard, every hour of the day – even if my chosen activity is sitting in the garden watching the butterflies, I’ll focus on that alone, until I’ve finished the task. I’ll be saying ‘no’ when someone asks me to take on a responsibility that sounds interesting, but that I actually don’t have time to see through properly. And I’ll really persevere. If I start something, I finish it. I’ll get back to you with the results, and let you know whether I’m gaining a better understanding of the Virtue of Perseverance, as a result.
 I’ve been thinking a lot about my cosmology recently, and the concept of sacred-chaos-and-cosmos is becoming a significant one for me, theologically speaking. I’d love to have a better phrase to describe it… but until I do, I’m just going to have to call it ‘the dance of chaos and cosmos, the cycle of creation and destruction, and the beautiful cosmic balance in which the two are held’. So that’s clear, then.